Burien Considers Handing Contract for Homeless Services to Private Sweeps Startup With Scanty Record

The More We Love logo (fair use)

By Erica C. Barnett

For months now, the city of Burien has been locked in a stalemate over how to address a group of unsheltered people who remain in the city after repeated sweeps.

The latest plan: A potential contract with Kirkland mortgage broker Kristine Moreland, who offers private sweeps, at a cost of $515 per “camper,” or about $20,000 for a “40 person sweep,” through a new nonprofit called The More We Love, incorporated under the name The More Wee Love on April 10.

Moreland is a longtime volunteer at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, a religious charity that offers shelter, housing, and a Christian treatment program, and used to run a small nonprofit called the MORELove Project, which was dissolved in 2019. In interviews and public comments, Moreland has argued that homelessness is a drug problem, not a housing problem. This view is in conflict with a more widely accepted approach called “housing first,” which holds that people can’t achieve lasting recovery if their basic needs aren’t met.

Burien officials have been debating how to deal with encampment residents since March, when the council and King County Library System voted to evict a group of people living in tents outside the building that houses Burien City Hall and the local library branch. Ever since, the city has swept this group of several dozen unsheltered people from place to place; in June, King County offered the city a million dollars, a shelter location, and 35 Pallet shelters, but a four-member council majority voted to reject that offer in July, arguing it was a bad deal for the city.

Meanwhile, the same council majority has spent the better part of the summer proposing sites that are unavailable or uninhabitable—like a contaminated Port of Seattle property located right at the end of a SeaTac Airport runway.

On August 21, the council plans to take up a new proposal to criminalize unsheltered homelessness in the city, modeled on Bellevue’s near-total “camping ban.”

Last week, the council—at the request of Mayor Sofia Aragon—directed City Manager Adolfo Bailon to “explore a contract with Kristine Moreland” for homeless services,  “given what we’ve seen in terms of outcomes.”

According to people who work with Burien’s homeless population, Moreland started showing up at encampments in April, shortly after the initial sweep at City Hall. By the next month, Moreland was pitching herself to Burien leaders as a more effective alternative to longstanding nonprofit groups like Let Everyone Advance with Dignity (LEAD) and REACH, which she described in an email to City Manager Adolfo Bailon and the council as “struggling” and “not…successful.”

“As you may know,” Moreland wrote to Bailon in May, “we have been monitoring the encampment downtown and have been working with a number of individuals living there to provide essential services such as food, shelter, and healthcare. While we have been successful in our efforts, we have also noticed that other resources have been struggling to address the needs of the encampment and its residents.”

“Our organization has worked with other local governments and non-profit organizations to provide compassionate and respectful assistance to those in need,” Moreland continued, “and we believe that we can help the city do the same.”

A majority of the council was apparently impressed by Moreland’s pitch. Last week, the council—at the request of Mayor Sofia Aragon—directed City Manager Adolfo Bailon to “explore a contract with Kristine Moreland” for homeless services,  “given what we’ve seen in terms of outcomes.”

What outcomes was Aragon referring to? According to Bailon, who singled out Moreland’s group during a presentation on Burien’s homelessness efforts last week, Moreland got a group of unsheltered people to move on from a piece of vacant land near Burien Town Square, and then performed a similar feat when an encampment popped up outside a nearby Grocery Outlet, clearing around 20 tents from the property and “identifying housing for multiple people” at the site.

Moreland declined to speak to PubliCola, and did not respond to a list of detailed questions about her work. Speaking to conservative commentator Jason Rantz on August 11, said The More We Love had “successfully removed 27 people” from the site by guiding them into “truthful, real, intentional services”—like detox and treatment—and getting “real organizations in there that can do the real work and understand how to actually help these humans.”

It’s unclear how many people Moreland has actually referred to detox, treatment, or housing. But here are some facts. For people with little or no income, getting into detox and treatment can take weeks or months. King County offers only two detox facilities for people who can’t pay for private detox, including the 33-bed Recovery Place center in Seattle, so competition is high. Even after longer-term treatment, relapse is extremely common,  especially for people who have nowhere to live; sober housing is an option for some, but beds are rare, and most facilities immediately evict people when they relapse.

Comparing her work favorably to longstanding nonprofits like the Downtown Emergency Service Center, Moreland told Rantz it was high time for the government to stop spending resources on people experiencing homelessness and let “the private sector step up”—including her own group, which she called one of “the most effective organizations I’ve seen yet.”

Aragon did not respond to a request for an interview. Bailon referred PubliCola’s questions to a spokesperson for the city, who said they had “no update to share on the nature or scope of any potential contract at this time as the directive was just issued this week during the City Council’s meeting.” The spokesperson then directed the rest of our questions to Moreland.

After one sweep, REACH case manager Stephanie Tidholm said, Moreland said she had housed 14 people, but Tidholm saw many of them in the relocated encampment a couple of weeks later. “We keep a spreadsheet of all our clients in Burien, and there is no way she housed 14 people.”

Moreland has told interviewers that her father struggled with addiction and was often homeless, an experience that has shaped her approach to people living unsheltered and struggling with addiction. “Nobody wants to be living in this hell, but the fact of the matter is it’s drug addiction, and that drags you down to the depths of despair,” Moreland recently told FOX 13 News. “So, it’s our job to lift them up and out of that.”

Talking to KIRO News before the Grocery Outlet sweep last last week, Moreland said she had already moved several people from the site into shelter or housing, and had “beds” available for at least another six people who remained at the location. “[We] do an intake at the beginning when they come into our care, Moreland explained. “Once we’ve done the intake, [and] we understand their full story, from there, we can connect them to services, and sometimes that looks like sending them home to their families. It just depends on what the greater story is.”

Jeff Rakow, the owner of the Grocery Outlet property, confirmed that he hired Moreland to remove the encampment, and called her work at the site “remarkable.”

“In response to widespread drug use and unsafe conditions for the unhoused and the community, coupled with the absence of urgent government action, we engaged The More We Love to connect those living in the encampment with human services,” getting people into “detox, shelter, back with family, or other solutions best suited to their individual needs.”

But people familiar with the homeless population in Burien say they continue to see the same people month after month, including people who have accepted Moreland’s housing and shelter offers and ended right back where they started. In one case, according to encampment volunteer Charles Schaefer, an encampment resident “told [volunteers] she transported him down to [a place in] Lacey,” about 50 miles south of Burien. Schaefer was head of the Burien Planning Commission until June, when the council majority ousted him for telling unsheltered people about a city-owned lot where they had a legal right to sleep.

The Lacey site was neither housing nor shelter, Schaefer said; “it was a detox or treatment facility, and that wasn’t what he was looking for or led to believe. So he took three buses to get back to Burien from down there,” Schaefer said. “He was lured with some offer that did not materialize.” PubliCola was unable to connect directly with this individual, but heard about his experience from Schaefer and two other sources.

In other cases, sources familiar with the homeless population in Burien say, Moreland’s clients received hotel beds for a few nights, then ended up back on the streets in Burien when the money for their rooms ran out. After an earlier sweep, REACH case manager Stephanie Tidholm said, Moreland claimed she had housed 14 people, but Tidholm saw many of them in the relocated encampment a couple of weeks later. “We keep a spreadsheet of all our clients in Burien, and there is no way she housed 14 people.”

Kristine Moreland speaks to KIRO News in front of the pile of rocks that has replaced an encampment near the Grocery Outlet in Burien. KIRO News screenshot.

During the recent Grocery Outlet sweep, longtime clients contacted Tidholm to tell her Moreland was offering housing and detox services to people who agreed to leave the site. “Nobody she was with knew where they were going,” Tidholm said. “Somebody told me they weren’t allowed to go [with her] because they weren’t going to do detox. They thought they had to leave no matter what.”

A video posted by Discovery Institute staffer Jonathan Choe, who was fired by KOMO News for promoting a rally held by the insurrectionist group the Proud Boys, features a seemingly impaired woman describing how grateful she is for Moreland’s work to secure “the hotel we’re going into.”

According to Tidholm and others familiar with the encampment, Moreland moved as many as 12 encampment residents to a hotel in Renton owned by the company REBLX. Although REBLX has partnered with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and LEAD to provide rooms for their clients in the past, the company is not itself a service or shelter provider. Proposals to turn the whole 116-room hotel into a shelter for Burien residents fell flat, in part, because Renton law effectively prohibits new shelters in the city.

Already, according to sources familiar with the situation, REBLX has kicked out one of the former encampment residents Moreland placed there for violating the hotel’s code of conduct, which applies to anyone staying in its rooms. REBLX did not respond to a request for comment.

Since the sweep, Tidholm said she has only managed to reconnect with clients who didn’t go to Renton; the others, she said, “are now gone.”

The size of any potential contract between Moreland and the city of Burien remains unclear. A sample budget sent to council members by one of Moreland’s allies, Dan Mathews (of the commercial real estate company Kidder Mathews) suggested that King County could use the $1 million it proposed spending on shelter in Burien, plus additional funds the city could save by “redirecting resources away from current less effective solutions for the unhoused” to hire Moreland at an annual cost of $1.8 million.

In his pitch to Burien officials, Mathews credited Moreland with leading the team that swept a notorious Seattle encampment called the Jungle in 2016; building the city’s first “mobile shower truck”; and providing “outreach services for SPD Seattle’s Navigation team,” which removed encampments during the Jenny Durkan administration. The first two items appear to refer to Moreland’s work as a volunteer with UGM, which provided outreach before the city swept the Jungle. The city has not responded to questions about whether Moreland ever provided “services” for the Navigation Team, but the team itself was made up entirely of city employees. Mathews did not respond to a request for an interview.

Two incidents in Moreland’s past could raise concerns for the city as it considers signing a contract for her services. The first is her arrest for DUI last August, when Kirkland police pulled Moreland over for allegedly driving 52 mph in a 35 mph zone. (In an incident in 2021, an officer who pulled Moreland over for speeding said she drove “past my vehicle fast enough that it shook” and acted “inconvenienced” by the stop.)

When Moreland rolled down the window, according to the police report, her “eyes were watery and her speech was slurred,” and the “odor of intoxicants was emanating” from her breath. Moreland failed a field sobriety test and blew 0.133 on a blood alcohol breath test—significantly above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Subsequent tests showed she had a blood alcohol level between 0.11 and 0.13 percent.

Between 2014 and 2016, according to the charges, Moreland facilitated “short-term, high-cost loans” with an unlicensed lender for at least four home buyers, then turned around and refinanced the loans through the company that employed her as a mortgage broker, pocketing the commission.

The court initially suspended Moreland’s license for 90 days. Instead of accepting the penalty, she contested the charges, arguing that the breath test was inadmissible. Her case is now on hold pending the results of an unrelated lawsuit challenging the alcohol testing method used by agencies across the state. In that case, lawyers for a man arrested for a DUI argued that because the state’s standard testing equipment truncates test results after the second decimal instead of rounding them up or down, it could indicate that a driver was more intoxicated than they actually were, resulting in unfair charges.

A drunk driving charge is not, in itself, disqualifying for a job working with people who are actively using drugs and alcohol; in fact, many drug and alcohol counselors get into the work because of their own personal experiences with addiction and recovery. Given the zero-tolerance views Moreland has expressed about drug and alcohol use among homeless people, though, her own recent alcohol-related arrest and decision to fight the charges instead of taking responsibility seem inconsistent with the kind of policies she advocates for others.

Another incident that could be relevant to the council’s contract deliberations took place in 2020, when the state Department of Financial Institutions found Moreland had violated the state Consumer Lending Act while working for the licensed mortgage company Caliber Home Loans. The charges included engaging in unfair or deceptive practices, aiding and abetting violations of of the law, and making false statements to the department, among other violations.

Between 2014 and 2016, according to the charges, Moreland facilitated “short-term, high-cost loans” with an unlicensed lender for at least four home buyers, then turned around and refinanced the loans through Caliber, pocketing the commission.  Later, according to DFI documents, Moreland failed to report on her license renewal application that she was under investigation for violating state law, which is itself another violation.

Moreland could have lost her license over the charges or been permanently barred from practice. Instead, the department agreed to a consent order in 2021 in which Moreland would pay a $15,000 investigation fee, plus another $14,000 to fund financial literacy and education programs. State records indicate that the department put her on a $500-a-month payment plan for her $24,000 unpaid balance the following year; a spokesperson for DFI said Moreland still owes the state $18,500, and has paid $10,750 so far. “Ms. Moreland has missed periodic payments and payments have been modified to $50 per month,” the spokesperson said.

Many people who spoke to PubliCola for this story noted that no matter what approach a service provider takes with their clients, access to shelter and housing is dictated by the availability of shelter and housing—and currently, there isn’t enough of either. According to every estimate of King County’s homeless population, there are thousands more unsheltered people than shelter beds—perhaps tens of thousands.

Housing is even harder to come by, especially for people living in encampments. Under federal rules, service providers have virtually no ability to allocate housing themselves; instead, applications go through a process called Coordinated Entry that prioritizes people based on need. Private entities that don’t participate in the official housing system like Union Gospel Mission, can house people directly, but the housing they offer often comes with high barriers to entry, including drug testing, work requirements, and even dress codes for women.

If Burien’s elected officials aren’t aware of the fact that that sweeps don’t actually address homelessness it seems like Burien’s business owners are. As Schaefer, the former planning commissioner, notes, every time an encampment gets swept, business owners fill the vacant property with rocks. “I think the businesses know it’s not going to be permanent and the homeless folks are going to show back up at some point.” If most people were actually accessing untapped shelter and housing resources through private groups like Moreland’s, why would there be any need to keep them from coming back?

21 thoughts on “Burien Considers Handing Contract for Homeless Services to Private Sweeps Startup With Scanty Record”

  1. So interesting to see people in real estate…people who stand to make bank on the unearned value of land…getting involved here. And the “adults in the room” will never see that the value of land is a literal gold mine that would eliminate homelessness and the housing crisis in much less than the “homelessness emergency” has lasted. How do you have a multiyear “emergency” with so little measurable results? How many cities continue to build/develop their way out of what one of the world’s most high-tech cities sees as an intractable problem?

  2. April 1st at the city hall sweep, I noticed that More We Love woman standing around taking everything in. She was eyeing my people like a damn wolf, and it gave me pause. The next time I saw her was at a council meeting, wildly exclaiming how she would get the ‘whole camp housed in 2 weeks.’ I thought, ‘Yay a grifter, just what this problem needs.’ Next time I saw her was months later, clearing the camp with the dog pound. I’m very involved in the community of folks without houses, so I asked enough questions of enough people, and have pieced together myself where people go and what they’re told. She wasn’t at all what she seems. Then when I saw her proposal to the city, that was when I knew she wasn’t just a regular awful person, she had come to my town to prey on the most wounded for profit from us taxpayers. I think not. Absolutely not.

  3. Nowhere in these articles and conversations with City Council and City staff do they acknowledge these campers are here from a Seattle sweep at the Jungle. It has been acknowledged by the campers themselves. Yet Burien elected continue to play a foolery crisis event when they know full well ALL of the recent large encampments came from Seattle sweeps. They are in bed with King County to take the pushed addicts into Burien and then call it a Burien homeless crisis and justify spending and risky camps and housing propositions such as a $1M offer from King County. Dow Constantine is behind these back room wink wink false Burien crises involving Seattle homeless that are attracted there due to lack of enforcement and removal of drug laws. Surrounding towns impacted by these Seattle sweeps are fed up while their elected town Council members refuse to address that the campers are being planted – pushed out of Seattle into Burien, Renton and other towns. In addition to King County back office shenanigans encouraging back door deals to buy private property to put shelters on, without being transparent to citizens. And fooling the average voter that $1M is a deal to put a shelter up for Seattle homeless pushed to the suburbs. $1M will not even pay for a year of increased EMS, police efforts for 911 and drug dealing.

  4. Maybe they can go dump them in the woods! It’s one of the favorite solutions of Seattle’s “adults in the room.” Of course Burien is doing us one better by trying to cage them in a toxic waste dump at the end of a runway at Seatac, but Seattle’s “adults” will surely have more good ideas soon.

  5. The only way any success will be realized, regardless of the housing or SUD services, is that if there is not a continuum of care, all you have is a revolving door. Moreland will happily take anyone’s $515 to con a homeless person to anyplace other than where they are, bank it and move on to the next victim.

    1. Well at least she is moving them to accept treatment not just housing. Many will fail immediately as that is the seriousness of this hard addiction cycle. Those that become a menace with habits of destroying properties and inflicting violence, sex trafficking (yes they are doing that), stealing from retailers and property owners, assaulting citizens and each other will need incarceration it’s a fact.

      1. She has no housing to offer and no ability to place in treatment. Do you have any idea how incredibly hard it is to do that? Or how long it takes? I do that 5 days a week and I’m telling you she doesn’t have shit.

  6. Reading the above, there are some hilarious yet typical contradictions in the article, outside of the relative merits/demerits of the person discussed.

    Anecdote #1 – We are given a long bit on how impossible it is to get into detox. Then the anecdote notes that she lied to someone about no limits housing, getting them instead info…yes, that/s right…”detox”. the thing we just heard the weepies about how impossible it is. The twit involved decided they would rather keep using and ran back to use on the streets of Burien. This is an example of how awful everyone else is than the person who just prefers to use.

    Anecdote #2 – Someone get into a hotel long term. They got themselves thrown out over their own behavior. This is an example of how awful everyone else is than the person who can’t control their own behavior.

    Just another day in the radleft, kidz.

  7. Moreland is an asshat and full of shit. Where the fuck is she magically getting this housing? As someone who spends a good portion of each work day working on securing housing for the people I work with, I can tell you she is full of shit. As an alcoholic who does not endorse her own obvious behavioral health issues, why should anyone trust an active alcoholic? Show me a year of recovery Kristine and you might be able to gain some trust from the public; in the meantime, quit fucking up people’s lives.

    1. Not cool to accuse someone of active alcoholism. Fine to disagree with her tactics. Gross to do the former. If you work with vulnerable populations- you should know better.

  8. Ah yes, let the private sector step up. And do even less for more money. Brilliant idea. Homelessness services in this area need an almost complete overhaul, yes. But privatizing those services only guarantees things will get worse.

    1. What isn’t being said is, King County is manipulating by doing things like refusing County police services for a Burien sweep while still conducting Seattle sweeps. It’s all orchestrated and the Cities need to put their foot down.

      1. lol, never been to a sweep have you? Seattle sweeps use Seattle cops. Maybe the Burien “sweep” wasn’t being done by an authorized agency and they failed to arrange for support? Something’s wrong with what you stated…

  9. Beyond Moreland’s shady background, what comes to mind is: Homeless people are unfortunate but not profit centers.

    1. Right you are, Mr. Moreland, how right you are. From the article above…

      “In other cases, sources familiar with the homeless population in Burien say, Moreland’s clients received hotel beds for a few nights, then ended up back on the streets in Burien when the money for their rooms ran out. After an earlier sweep, REACH case manager Stephanie Tidholm said, Moreland claimed she had housed 14 people, but Tidholm saw many of them in the relocated encampment a couple of weeks later. “We keep a spreadsheet of all our clients in Burien, and there is no way she housed 14 people.”

      REACH case manager Stephanie Tideholm has the resources to keep a spreadsheet on the homeless in Burien and yet… they’re still homeless. The street name for “advocates”, “case managers” and “peer councilors” is poverty pimps. These people set up an expensive system to “help” the down-and-out and yet add zero housing, zero mental health treatment, zero drug treatment to those truly in need. But they got a fucking spreadsheet! That’s the way the “Homeless Industrial Complex” works. All talk, no action.

      It’s just a massive circular referral machine we keep dumping money into…. and the homeless problem just gets bigger every year.

      1. You do an excellent job of being somewhat right and mostly wrong in this post.

        “Housing First” as a strategy came about because HUD essentially told local government bodies to stop funding congregate night-to-night shelters whose primary job (and measurable outcome) was how may folks got a bed/toilet/shower/meal and therefore weren’t a pain in the ass to local businesses and residents on that particular day. I suspect that you would agree with me that this was a somewhat reasonable and achievable metric that improved the lives of homeless people AND the the lives of folks in the neighborhoods they wound up in to the extent that folks had a place to stay that wasn’t some business owner’s front alcove. The idealistic move to the “housing first” model where everyone gets their own apartment was well-intentioned and humane, but in cities with supercharged rental housing markets was doomed to fail from the start, given that even working class folks can’t find affordable housing in these areas.

        I have also seen you post frequently that “no one knows where the money went” with regard to funding for homeless services. As the financial manager of a local nonprofit that serves homeless folks I can assure you that we provide detailed expenditure reports from our accounting software that show EXACTLY where every single dollar of the public funds we receive were spent – and we also conduct public performance and financial audits that are redundant because we pay an independent accounting firm to do a IRS style audit annually to demonstrate to our funders that we operate on the straight and narrow.

        The nonprofit social service providers I’m aware of and/or have done business with during the course of my employment may have not solved this (intractable) problem – but they and their employees are for the most part caring people who work their asses off trying to make other people’s lives better – and most of them could make a lot more money is private sector jobs that are a lot less stressful.

        My two cents.

        PS – I used to be a legalize everything kind of person but have gone all law and order and think that folks who have drug habits might need to be arrested if they are indulging on public transit and/or in other public spaces. I suspect we probably agree on this.

      2. Bubbleator,

        No, I’m 100% right. There are over 80 nonprofits spinning their wheels trying to help the homeless. You work for one of them. You have no idea what the other 79 are doing. There’s no unified plan here– half the nonprofits hate the other half because of philosophical reasons. The woman (Erica) who runs this blog just hates, hates, hates born again Christians and takes a shot at the Union Gospel Mission every chance she gets. How can we tackle such a huge problem when we can’t even get along?

        So the “Homeless Industrial Complex” wastes millions and millions on infighting, duplicate services and 80 different corporate structures with many, many directors, assistant directors and office staff having little to no interaction with the actual homeless. Couple that with many nonprofits having a long history of paying frontline workers below poverty wages and supporting a work environment that causes high turnover. I worked of Tacoma public housing and I have friends (blue collar type folks) who worked for Catholic Social Services and LIHI. All really shitty places to work for the bottom rung employees. I’m not impressed.

      3. Your angry rant proves my specific points 6 ways to Sunday, though you are of course blind to that fact.

        What do you do for a living? What value are you adding to this discussion in particular and the world in general?

        Put up or shut up.

      4. PS – nonprofit social service agencies can only pay as much as their funders will support. Our payroll costs have risen close to 50% over the last 7 years and our governmental funding has in no way kept pace with that.

      5. I’d like to talk to you about your understanding of the non-profit industrial complex in regards to homelessness. The complex grinds on as organizations that create high admin costs and white-collar jobs get funded, while organizations that instead use their money directly toward solutions are ignored and silenced. Big problems like homelessness are expensive, and generate a lot of money for some people, so there is little incentive to solve them. They just want people to continue to generate expenses.
        So let’s look at our homelessness situation over the last few months, and please heavily consider the fact I have NO reason to lie or misrepresent facts to you.
        On June 1st. More We Love conducted a private sweep of the camp at 152nd and 6th. There were no police present to enforce this controversial effort, so ultimately if a camper refused to move they were paid to leave.
        With a UHaul, More We Love transported several campers and their belongings to a private property near Ambaum and 120th, a site where a small group of campers had reported refuge. The police immediately moved them off private land to the side of Ambaum where they now reside. Thus, the More We Love’s first formal effort to clear a camp directly resulted in the instant creation of two camps.
        At this point, numerous claims were coming into council meetings that Kristine Moreland and More We Love were getting people housed and into treatment at remarkable levels. This has left several people who have been working with homeless people for years wondering–How? Where? Who? We were all still seeing the same faces. We were all still seeing the camps getting packed more and more dense with people.
        At the start of August, rocks began piling into the Grocery Outlet camp as More We Love was beginning their 2nd job. Over the course of two days, about 25 people disappeared. Service providers and people with working-history were left wondering, “Where did campers go?”
        More We Love claims this was a months-long, coordinated effort. Apparently not to clients (?) who were not there those two days. Their tents were thrown out and they are now sleeping in chairs or on the ground at the other camp.
        As campers are slowly returning, available information pieces together that some went to a Renton motel, some went to a far east-side organization, and some were simply given transportation to leave. It didn’t matter where they went, rocks had immediately buried the space. More We Love’s job was complete.
        Fully supported by Council Mora, More We Love is proposing a $1.8M contract to continue to do this compassionate work.
        To conclude my talk about this example of the non-profit industrial complex, I ask that you please participate in demanding that the council to put aside partisanship and start making common sense decisions. Please demand council to support work that directly solves problems, not line pockets. Thank you.

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